Aspects of health, injury and disease amongst the non-elite workforces of dynastic Egypt
The non-elite workforces in ancient Egypt were at risk from incurring injuries and acquiring diseases due to the nature of their occupational activities. Manual labour forces were conscripted and relocated to comply with the requirements of corvee duties. Craft specialisation ensured that the performance of particular tasks provided a focal point in the life experience of the non-elite individual, determining their role within society and defining the practical demands of the activity, in terms of expertise and productivity. The intensive manual tasks associated with the processes of quarrying and construction and the repetitive activities inherent in industrial and domestic occupations would have determined the health status of the non-elite individual, potentially manifesting as characteristic and occupation-related physical anomalies. It is unlikely that the social and cultural environment of ancient Egypt would facilitate the recognition of these issues and address the debilitating effects consequential to occupational tasks. The sources of evidence are surveyed and analysed utilising the textual, artistic, archaeological and human remains sources. Published textual and artistic sources and their interpretations are reassessed. Theoretical models for the working and living conditions at settlement sites based upon published reports and emerging archaeological data have been created. The sources from a number of non-elite cemetery sites are incorporated to explore the possibility of accessing evidence for non-elite health from the human remains. The anticipated prevalence of injuries and diseases appears to be under-represented in the ancient sources, prompting an evaluation of the ancient ideological and cultural perspectives, evidential survival and consequent interpretative limitations imposed upon the data. The sources are reviewed within the social and cultural environment that determined the elite attitude towards the non-elite workforces and consequently dictated their fate, in addition to their inclusion or omission from the ancient record.